That’s the question I ask Andrew each birthday, but I’m usually asking about food as opposed to a gift. For Andrew, other family members, and a few special friends I loan them my copy of Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations by Nancie McDermott for two days and tell them to pick a cake. The cookbook was a gift from Momma and as a complete pie girl, it has become my essential cake guide, outside of a few family recipes.
There have been quite a few picks including Helen Hudson Whiting Celestial Chocolate Cake, Sweet Potato Pound Cake, Mississippi Mud Cake, etc. With at least 30 options, Andrew can be counted on to choose the Red Velvet Cake without fail each year.
Since trying the recipe from Southern Cakes, I haven’t even looked at another one. This year it was even better than usual and I attribute it to the freezer. One of the Beach Bunch Mommas (more on that later) always freezes her pound cakes for a little bit after they cool completely because they are moist and less likely to dry out. I decided to try the same with these layer cakes thought it may have been dumb luck, I’m going to say this was the trick. After the cakes cooled completely, I wrapped them up tightly and placed them in the freezer for a day. The morning of Andrew’s party (more on that later take 2) I took them out of the freezer to thaw and iced the cake about an hour before the party that took place that evening.
I’m usually not a huge red velvet fan, but this recipe has made me re-think my stance on RV. Maybe I’ll even choose it for my birthday cake. Maybe, but highly unlikely since I’d have to give up my pie.
The Recipe: Red Velvet Cake
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour ( I used King Arthur’s Cake Flour–it was on sale :)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. buttermilk
2 Tbsp. cocoa
One 1-oz. bottle (2 Tbsp.) red food coloring
2 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar or white vinegar
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two round cake pans (9-inch) and line with wax paper. Grease the paper and flour the pans. Prepare three mixtures which will become the batter. Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl and use a fork to mix them together well. Combine the vanilla with the buttermilk. Mix the cocoa and red food coloring in a small bowl, and stir until it makes a smooth paste.
With a mixer in a larger bowl, beat the butter at a low speed for 1 minute until creamy and soft. Add the sugar and then beat for 3-4 minutes scraping every few minutes. Add the eggs one by one, beating after each until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Scrape the cocoa-food coloring paste into the batter and mix evenly.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and then half of the milk, beating the batter with a mixer at low speed, and mixing only enough for for the flour and liquid to disappear. Mix in another 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the milk, and then the last of the flour in the same way.
In another bowl, combine the baking soda and vinegar, stirring well. Quickly mix this mixture into the red batter, folding it in gently by hand. Pour the batter into the cake pans.
Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until the layers no longer jiggle in the middle. Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes and then turn them out on the racks or on plates, remove the paper and turn top side up to cool.
Ice with your favorite Red Velvet compliment–we chose a rich cream cheese icing. Place on layer on a cake plate and ice the top. Place the 2nd layer on top of the first and ice the top and then sides of both.
After icing the cake, refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer to help the icing set.
The Bibliography: Southern Cakes: Sweet & Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations by Nancie McDermott